Sunday, August 23, 2020

Russian Officials Foolishly Think They Can Buy Off Popular Opposition without Changing Course, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – The political system Vladimir Putin has put in place has “many shortcomings,” Sergey Shelin says; but the main one is that it is proving incapable of learning from its mistakes. Instead, it is constantly repeating the same approach: launching something, angering people, seeking to buy them off, and then starting over again.

            Again and again, the Rosbalt commentator says, officials, on orders from above or desirous of winning points, pursue policies in a thoughtless fashion, infuriate the population to the point that continuing in “a victorious conclusion” will be counterproductive, try to buy off the population, and then repeat the process (

            Instead of surveying the attitudes of the population in advance or listening to it and changing course, the officials assume they can continue to act as they want but just have to buy off the people by offering them either delay or some side payments as the events in  Arkhangelsk, Khabarovsk and now Bashkortostan show, Shelin continues. 

            In each case, officials locally and in Moscow ignored the population, took action, provoked the population to the point that some concession had to be made, made those concessions for a time at least, but also signaled that the powers that be intend to continue in the same direction as soon as the resistance lessens. 

            What the officials don’t see but what the population does is that the authorities have no intention of changing course fundamentally, and that has the effect of further undercutting the authority of officials even as it intensifies anger among the people against the Russian political system.

            To make his point, Shelin recounts how officials pushed of the amalgamation of Arkhangelsk and the Nenets AD and then delayed the vote, how they removed Furgal and then tried unsuccessfully to buy off Khabarovsk residents by installing another LDPR leader, and how they opened the way to the exploitation of a holy mountain and then promised talks.

            Retreating in the face of popular anger could be an early sign of democratic change if the officials were really prepared to respond positively to what the people want, but in these cases and others, Shelin argues, the officials are only doing what they think is enough to buy off the opposition not to address its underlying concerns.

            That tactic may work with some within Putin’s power vertical, but it is increasingly ineffective with the population because it is all too obvious what is going on. 

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